Are you looking for tomato plant support options? There are many DIY plant support ideas that you might consider when growing your own, and many of those can be used when growing tomatoes.
In this article, we will take a look at tomato plant supports – starting out by explaining why we might need support for our tomatoes, then outlining twelve of the best options when it comes to how support tomato plants in a range of different settings.
Why Use Tomato Plant Supports?
First things first, you might wonder whether you need support for your tomato plants in the first place.
While many tomato plants will benefit from some sort of support, the type of support that is required will depend in large part on the specific type and cultivar or tomato you are growing or plan to grow. Some tomatoes require more support than others.
How much support, and the type of support that tomato plants might benefit from depends on whether you are growing a determine or indeterminate tomato type, and the size to which the tomato plant is expected to grow.
Determinate tomatoes are often described as ‘bush’ tomatoes, while indeterminate tomatoes are often called ‘vining’ tomatoes, or sometimes as ‘cordon-type’.
Cordon-type is a phrase that refers to the way in which indeterminate or vining tomatoes are typically grown. They are grown as cordons which means that they are pruned/ trained with side shoots removed, with one leading growing stem.
Whether the tomatoes you are growing are a bush or cordon type will determine certain elements of their care, including pruning and training, and the type of support that you might use.
Cordon tomatoes always need support, as they are pruned and trained to create tall and narrow plants, tied into a support structure of some kind.
Bush tomatoes are looser, with a more sprawling form. They can often simply be left to do their own thing and flop around as they will. But for best results, and to prevent any accidents, and to ensure that you make the most of your space, it can be useful to support these types too.
Supporting bush tomatoes as well as vining or cordon types can be beneficial because it can keep fruits up and off the ground, prevent the plants from being damaged if they spread out or flop over pathways, and help make sure that plants are not broken by the weight of the fruit. What is more, by keeping these tomato plants corralled, we ensure that they take up less space in the garden.
12 of the Best Tomato Plant Supports
There are of course plenty of tomato plant support options that you might consider. Many do not involve buying in expensive items and indeed, many do not involve having to buy anything at all.
Natural, eco-friendly ideas for tomato plant supports can often involve using either natural or reclaimed items or materials that you may already have lying around. Making use of what we already have on our properties or in our homes is almost always the most eco-friendly, ethical and sustainable choice.
So, here are twelve tomato plant support options that you should consider:
String or Twine
Cordon tomatoes are often grown up vertical strings or lengths of twine suspended from the framework of a polytunnel or greenhouse, or from a trellis type framework in a garden. The main stems of the cordon tomatoes are tied into these vertical strings as they grow.
You can of course purchase natural string or twine for this purpose, but if you are feeling in the mood for some DIY then you might also consider making your own using natural plant fibres from your garden. It is easy, for example, though fairly time consuming, to make a rustic garden twine from the fibres in the stems of stinging nettles.
Simple Canes or Natural Branches
With less tall tomato varieties, we can often get away without a more elaborate support structure and instead focus on a simple cane or natural branch inserted in the soil near each plant, to which they can be tied in as they grow.
In many instances, it is possible for gardeners to grow bamboo or wood for coppice like hazel for example in their gardens in order to provide materials for stakes and canes in their gardens. So growing your own supports as well as food makes a lot of sense, and is something that you should certainly consider when making your garden plans.
Reclaimed Wood Stakes
As well as using bamboo canes or natural branches pruned or coppiced from plants in your garden, you might also use stakes made from reclaimed wood to make simple supports for tomato plants. Bush types in particular may only require a simple stake and won’t necessarily need a more elaborate support structure.
So consider using old pieces of scrap wood that would otherwise be thrown away before you think about buying in anything new to support the tomato plants in your garden.
Continuing in the same vein, thinking about using things that might otherwise have been thrown away, rather than using vertical twine or string to support taller cordon-type tomato plants, you might use some old wire that would otherwise have been discarded.
Like the twine, the wire might become a vertical support trailing down from the structure of a polytunnel or greenhouse, or become part of a dedicated DIY support structure made from other materials like reclaimed wood.
Tomato plants, especially bush types, often do best with a support that encircles them. One option that provides this all round support is a spiral or helix of metal.
Spiral rods are available for sale, but again, you might also consider making your own using some reclaimed metal that is pliable enough to bend but rigid and strong enough to hold its form.
Tomato Plant Cages
A second type of support for bush type tomatoes which involves support which surrounds the tomato plant on all sides are tomato cages. These are cage-like structures that, like a spiral form rod, at least partly encircle the tomato plant, preventing it from falling or sprawling out in all directions.
As with the above option, there are plenty of tomato cages that you can buy. But you can also make your own using old wire fencing, or other reclaimed materials.
Vining, cordon type tomatoes that are tied into the support structure as they grow will benefit from a tall support structure. One taller support option for outdoors cultivation of tomatoes is a simple wooden obelisk.
Wooden obelisks are commonly used to support ornamental climbing plants but especially if you are short on space in a vegetable garden area, you might also use one to grow cordon tomatoes, and potentially other edible climbers and vines. Remember, you can buy these but it is also relatively simple to make your own using reclaimed wood or other reclaimed materials.
If making your own wooden obelisk seems like a little too much work, it could also be possible to simply repurpose an old ladder to become a tomato plant support option. Cordon tomatoes might be tied into a ladder type support as they grow.
You might also consider growing trailing tomatoes that will hang down rather than growing up, and allowing these to trail down an obelisk or ladder. Using vertical gardening techniques and growing tomatoes upside down suspended from a ladder is also a more unusual option.
Like obelisks and ladders, planting towers are all about growing as much as we can in a limited about of space.
Many smaller tomato varieties can work well when allowed to trail from the planting pockets in planting towers, while taller cordon types may be grown on the ground and tied into a tall tower structure as they grow.
Trellises are an obvious method of support for many of the plants, edible and otherwise that you might grow in your garden. Tomato plants can of course be tied into trellises of many kinds as they grow.
Again, trellis structures can be purchased but it is also often very simple and straightforward to make your own. And often, you will already have natural or reclaimed materials on hand that you can use for the project.
Other DIY Upcycled Support Options
Taking the initiative, using your imagination, and not being afraid to take on DIY projects means that you will have many further options when it comes to tomato plant support structures.
Many other upcycling ideas can allow you to simply repurpose old items to support tomato plants in your garden… from old bed frames and mattress springs, to old bicycle wheels and spokes… the options are nearly endless if you use what you have, and your imagination.
An Existing Fence
Of course, you might not need to make a new support structure at all. If you have a sunny, south facing fence then you might be able to take advantage of the existing structure.
You might be able, already, to tie tomatoes into this fence as they grow. Or you might be able to add support wires to the fence to provide points to which tomatoes can be tied in over the summer months.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.